Shaky, by Shakin’ Stevens
Suggested by Mark Davis
Shakin’ Stevens was the UK’s biggest singles artist of the Eighties.
Think about that for a second. That fact beggars belief. For the entire Eighties, perhaps the most iconic decade for music there’s ever been, the biggest selling singles artist was a 1950s-style crooning rock and roll throwback musical theatre cover version novelty act.
We had Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Eurythmics, Culture Club, David Bowie, The Cure, Queen, Pet Shop Boys, Stock Aitken Waterman acts, Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones, Wham! and more. Who came out on top? Welsh Elvis.
There are similar mind-boggling musical facts. My favourite trivia of this ilk is this: Which had the last Number 1 of the Sixties and the first Number 1 of the Seventies? The act that bestrode such bountiful decades of musical excellence was, of course, Rolf Harris. Two Little Boys.
There’s something enduring about Shakin’ Stevens. It goes beyond his mild exterior and inoffensive hits, although songs like This Old House, Green Door and Merry Christmas Everyone do lock you in a room of earworms and throw away the key. If I asked you to tell me how many studio albums he’d released in his career, you’d probably not get near the correct number of nineteen, unless you were gifted his nineteen-CD career retrospective released just before Christmas.
Shaky is the man’s eleventh studio album, his second in 1981 alone. I guess it’s easier to crank ‘em out when the majority of your tracks are cover versions. Over fourteen songs and forty minutes, Welsh Elvis brings us eight cover versions, five of his own compositions, and one non-Stevens original song You Drive Me Crazy (not to be confused with She Drives Me Crazy by the Fine Young Cannibals, of course). Each is a picture postcard recreation of the good time of Fifties rock and roll, expressive and taut, tiny slices of nostalgic nirvana delivered with a smooth voice and, it has to be said, at least a ninety percent successful impression of Elvis Presley.
It’s uncanny, honestly, how much the Welsh Elvis births soundalike songs akin to those of the American Elvis. Unsurprising, I guess, given the man’s musical theatre background playing Elvis in the
West End musical Elvis! But, only knowing his hit singles, I was legitimately surprised at the similarity. There are no actual Elvis covers on Shaky, unless I’m mistaken, but I assume there are a few somewhere on his other eighteen albums. Maybe cover versions with a Welsh twist… Viva Llandudno, perhaps. Don’t Be Crywll. You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Sheepdog, that sort of thing.
I’m no real fan of the Fifties rock and roll sound. Elvis doesn’t move me at all. So this Aldi Centre Aisle Purchased-From-Wish Claymation Elvis Fanfic elicits little more than a Blue Suede Shrug. There’s also something rather music hall about most of the songs, almost as though Stevens appropriated ninety percent of his act from Elvis and the other ten percent from Chas and Dave. Predictably, my favourite track is Green Door, likely because it was the only one I knew going in. I didn’t know it was a cover version, and I’ll definitely check out the original at some point.
Shaky gets an underwhelming 4/10. Like a mediocre martini, I was not stirred by Shakin’ Stevens.